SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador—LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano provides his Three Points to the team’s CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage finale against Isidro Metapán. A win and the Galaxy will clinch a top three seed in the tournament quarterfinals while also maintaining a perfect record in group play.
BREAK DOWN THE ORGANIZED METAPAN
Isidro Metapán may have nothing to play for in this edition of the Champions League, but they’ll be eager to send the LA Galaxy into the quarterfinals on a losing note on Thursday.
Rather than attack from the outset, the Salvadorians are expected to present an organized front as they attempt to be difficult for the Galaxy to break down. By dropping numbers in the final third, they’ll likely cede possession to LA and attempt to find their success on the counter by presenting opportunities for talented Panamanian forward Nicolas Muñoz. With Metapán dropping deep from the outset, the onus will be on LA to break down a compact defense that will aim to limit space in their attacking end of the field.
With the Galaxy likely to dominate possession, expect LA to attempt to use their time on the ball to drift passes into forwards Jack McBean and Chandler Hoffman, who have proven that they can capitalize on any space provided in CCL play. If the Galaxy can find their attackers with space behind the defense, they should be able to create chances.
SEVERAL PLAYERS LOOK TO RETURN TO FULL FITNESS AHEAD OF PLAYOFF STRETCH
As the LA Galaxy prepare to make a play across two competitions this week, they expect to welcome a couple players back from injury while also allowing another to retain sharpness after a suspension.
Out since mid-September when he dislocated his left elbow, A.J. DeLaGarza is set to return to the fold on Thursday night. DeLaGarza returned to the bench during Sunday’s scoreless draw with the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday and is likely to be contention for a spot as an outside back against Metapán with the trio of Leonardo, Kofi Opare and Tommy Meyer available to play in central defense. Meanwhile, midfielder Juninho figures to be available to head coach Bruce Arena in El Salvador as he will be suspended for Sunday’s MLS regular season finale against Seattle Sounders FC due to yellow card accumulation.
Finally, Robbie Rogers is an option for minutes in El Salvador after he made his first competitive appearance since Aug. 20 on Sunday. During his second half showing against San Jose, Rogers was, admittedly, lacking sharpness after his long injury layover, but added minutes could help move along as he looks to stay in contention for time with the first team.
TARGET FORWARDS KEY TO BOTH SIDES
In what promises to be a physical match, both sides will be expected to rely heavily on their target forwards to generate offense.
Jack McBean, who scored twice when LA beat Metapan in last year’s group stage finale, is expected to be a focal point of the Galaxy’s attack as he attempts to use his physicality to batter a Metapan defense that has conceded seven goals in their last four league games. McBean can also create for others as he was involved in all three LA goals in their victory over C.S. Cartaginés in September, scoring one and setting up two others.
On the opposite end of the field, the bruising yet technical Nicolas Muñoz will lead the Metapan offense when they get opportunities to test Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe. The task of shutting down Munoz will likely fall to Brazilian center back Leonardo, who must be physical with the Panamanian as he attempts to drift behind the Galaxy back four.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com